By Tarty Teh
If Mr. Armstrong Williams can justify his conservative credentials, I do not see why I cannot prove myself worthy of my liberal ones. By way of introduction, I was born in the village of Borti, in the clan of Pallipo, in the district of Webbo, in the county of Gedeh, in a republic called Liberia. My birthplace is 428 miles from my nation’s capital, and 135 miles from the nearest point on the Atlantic coast with any hints of Western civilization. The year of my birth would be 1946 on the Western calendar, but we have no such thing as an anchored universal time from which years run (Since the birth of Christ, for instance, for Western calendar). I started Western schooling at age 12, and left my birthplace for the capital city in my late teens after I was promoted to the 8th grade.
We pick our relevant points in time; so, for my parents and those who have since come to believe in me, the year Westerners refer to as 1946 is simply the year Tarty Teh was born, which was also on the 12th day of the 8th month of our calendar. We have 13 months, all 28 days long.
To us, the question “What year is this?” is an illogical one. There are years, for instance, since your child was born; years since you were married; years since your child left home; years since you lost your mother, years since an eclipse; and so on. So years do not have individual names. For general accounting for time, however, there are pebbles stored in clay pots in the attic of a hut in the center of our main village. Each pebble represents a season since we became a dakor or nation. Much like the American atomic clock in Colorado.
So, I was born on the 12th day of the 8th month called Gbajoh, meaning “carry seeds,” as in the last sweep of farm sites by tropical rains, carrying spilled seeds from the last harvest via the swollen rivers’ last rush south for the season. Well, so much for advanced civilizations.
I am writing this from my hospital bed at the Washington Hospital Center. My delight at seeing that Emerge was among the magazines my wife bought for me on her way to seeing me was dampered by Mr. Armstrong Williams’ article in the “Last Word” section for the magazine’s Dec./Jan. 1998 edition.
Since in fact I was born in Africa, I cannot fairly suffer any rebuke for not sharing Mr. Williams’ professed love for America — love so strong that he would not deign to refer to himself as an “African” American. The only gift Mr. Williams has shown is that of making his own “cookie cutter,” which — magically — replicates items already found on right-wing conservative menu, hence “the Great Society’s welfare is a disaster” exceeded in scope only by the “socialized health care system.”
Well, for the rest of Mr. Williams’ lip-synching of conservative refrains, see Jerry Falwell’s list of supposed Republican battle hymns and how well they mirror what Williams has created with his own “cookie cutter.” They include a lamentation about “family under siege,” the abomination of homosexuality, abortion, “sex education or contraception training . . .” How do you know when a brother has made it? When he wakes up one morning with a hangover from worrying about “homosexual marriage.”
I have been trying to study the Emerge magazine to determine its bent so that if I came upon an issue which I felt was of interest to the magazine I might write an article about it for submission. But if standards as so high at Emerge as to keep me from appearing in it, then by what editorial fiat did Emerge allow the ponderous platitudes Williams has been programmed to prattle in conveying conservative precepts which I believe he lacks the intellectual dept to internalize?
Beyond all this, I do not think Mr. Williams is coherent enough to occupy the print space Emerge allotted him to propagate his contempt for African-American agenda. Let’s take a look at his statement on racism which the magazine finds salient enough to use as its center blurb: “The best way to overcome racism is to rise above pettiness and get on with the business of living.” Aside from the statement’s serving as a good example of uninspiring prose, aren’t racism and pettiness two different things?
“I learned the value of hard work . . .” Déjà vu all over again! I believe Mr. Williams has listed his obstacles in terms of the degree of danger they pose to reaching his life goals. Accordingly, blacks rank ahead of whites as threat to his dreams, hence, “I also learned that blacks, as well as whites, could be hostile to a black man who worked hard to succeed.” In fact whites are an afterthought in the above quotation because they are only parenthetical to a more naked threat which blacks represent in Mr. Williams’ mind.
But “when whites burned down my father’s barn, not one of our black neighbors helped my family rebuild.” Well — has it ever occurred to Mr. Williams that the blacks may have thought that the Williams thought they did it, especially with reasoning like this? I, too, seeing the scant ground upon which Mr. Williams acquired his “proud” conservative label, would not go near his barn, no matter what shape it was in.
I presume that blacks never touched or torched any of Mr. Williams’ property — else we would have heard about it. They are black-listed only for not rebuilding the barn whites burned. So what use is Armstrong Williams to any black cause? I believe something can be said for being wary of people who burn your barn. The Kings, Dauglasses, Jacksons, Lowerys, and other wary souls knew who burned their dreams. That’s what we’re talking about!
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